Entrepreneur

His Best Foot Forward - How Melissa Gave This S'pore Entrepreneur Sales As Sweet As Bubblegum

The first time I wore a pair of Melissa shoes was late last year.

A mildly anaemic me had slipped down the stairs, which led to a small sprain and the inability to strut around in 2-inch wedges. Thankfully, a colleague of mine had a spare pair of shoes lying around. It was a pair of peach-coloured Melissa sandals.

What surprised me the most was that despite its weight, the shoes were not uncomfortable at all; and the bubblegum scent and solid jelly material left me liking it even more.

That is what makes Melissa so attractive – to the extent that a Singapore multi-brand retailer did a product overhaul to cater to this tutti-frutti series.

For those unacquainted, Melissa is a Brazilian brand that dates back to 1979. Produced by Grendene, they began as plastic footwear parts before it evolved into a 100% plastic shoe.

Today, the shoes are sold in over 80 countries, and have stepped up to the plate to become one of the “Top 50 shoes that changed the world”.

Melissa In Singapore

Founded in 2009, Enviably Me was originally a multi-brand footwear retailer.

Like many people, I’ve always wanted to start my own business […] and after 14 years at P&G, I finally thought, “It’s now or never,” Yow told The Edge Markets.

Sometime in 2011, Yow came across the Melissa series and it sparked such a strong interest in him that he decided to do an overhaul of his products.

The following year, the company set up a dedicated Melissa e-commerce site; and in November, it launched the first Singapore flagship store in Wheelock Place.

Most recently in July 2017, the second MDREAMS shop at Raffles Place opened its doors to customers.

Melissa at Raffles City / Image Credit: Melissa Singapore

Spanning 7,500 square feet, MDREAMS at Raffles City is the largest Melissa store in the world. Almost futuristic looking, the space is carved in sleek white lines, which is synonymous with the brand.

Challenges of course, were rife, notably with the e-commerce store, revealed Yow.

People think it’s cheaper to start a business online, but that’s a fallacy. There are a lot of related and hidden costs in running an online site well that most people never consider.”

He admits that his targets for the online store was a $20k budget and 2 months, but this ended up becoming $80k and 9 months.

Online sales are also restrictive as customers have a desire to touch and feel the product first. The site also requires strong organic traffic, and the competition is also tougher.

“When you’re online, you’re just a tiny dot in an ocean of businesses from all over the world, many of which can afford to offer free shipping to anywhere.”

But the efforts paid off. Enviably Me sells 600-1,000 pairs each month online; and triple that number offline.

Since they began in 2011, the company has enjoyed “double, triple growth year-on-year” during the first few years and “very strong double-digit growth” after that. And despite 2016’s retail slip, the brand still raked in 20% revenue growth, Yow told Business Times.

But why is Melissa such a draw?

One reason is how customers will always know when they are near a store, thanks to the signature bubblegum scent.

“This is something no one else in the market has done … and it appeals to women,” shared Yow.

Moreover, the Singapore stores, just like other MDREAMS around the world, actually create a “multi-sensory experience“. Designed to become ‘galleries’, shopping becomes more than retail.

Melissa in London / Image Credit: IDX.uk

The Singapore Test Bed

The Wheelock space gave Yow the “flexibility to test new products and brands in the market”, one of which had been Melissa. And even though he was unfamiliar to the trend, his disinterest actually was a bonus.

“If you look at things you don’t relate to, you won’t be swayed by your emotions [so you] can make objective decisions,” he commented.

His P&G training also awarded him the skills to convince Grendene to make him exclusive distributor, as he urged that Enviably Me had “what it takes to build the brand and grow the business the way they would want it”.

Image Credit: Travelettes

The first order was only for 300 pairs, and Yow estimated they would sell over 5-6 months. Defying that, all 300 pairs were snatched up in 2 weeks – success that he attributes to Singapore’s small size and the power of word-of-mouth.

Soon, Melissa was outperforming all his other brands and being a small business with limited resource, Yow made “the difficult decision to concentrate on it”.

While Melissa engages in celebrity brand partnerships, Yow also does the same with local brands such as Mothercare and departmental store Tangs and Robinsons.

Innovation, he says is also crucial, as it lets them stay ahead of copycats from China.

Imitation […] plagues the fashion industry, but [if a] brand keeps coming up with new and innovative designs, the copycats will always lag behind. [So, at] our stores, you will see something new every month.”

Melissa collaborations / Image Credit: Rock The Trends

An Enviable Future

Locally, Yow also hopes that Orchard Road will be able to regain the glory of its heyday – a challenge that is still on the horizon for Enviably Me.

“Orchard Road has lost its lustre as a shopper’s paradise [and] I hope that the right people will be able to re-invent and restore the shopping boulevard to its former glory,” he told The Business Times.

In his future, he also seeks to replicate Melissa’s success with new brands, such as EMU Australia. And on a wider scale, the local entrepreneur seeks to expand regional distribution since his entry into Malaysia in 2013.

MDREAMS @ Wheelock Place

501 Orchard Road, #B2-03, Singapore 238880

MELISSA @ Raffles City 

252 North Bridge Road #B1-28, Singapore 179103

Featured Image Credit: The Honeycombers

 

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